AlUla Moments, an annual series of festivals in the oasis valley of the Saudi Arabian heritage site, kicked off with the Azimuth music event on Thursday.
With headline performers including South Korean DJ Peggy Gou and British singer-songwriter Jorja Smith, the mountain region north-west of the capital city Riyadh is welcoming international and local artists to raise the metaphorical roof.
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“…We cannot wait for guests to experience everything we have in store for them this year,” Rami Almoallim, Vice President of Destination Management and marketing at the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) said.
“AlUla Moments is all about people enjoying incredible experiences,” he said in a statement to the media.
Coinciding with the Kingdom’s 93rd National Day, the experience is being organized by Saudi-based MDLBEAST, who has promised to “transform stunning and historical AlUla into an exceptional gathering of art, sound, and music for an unmissable weekend extravaganza,” in a statement.
The entertainment firm is best known for hosting the flagship three-day SOUNDSTORM festival in Riyadh, which saw over 600,000 attendees in 2022.
On the ground
Mohammed Sal, a Saudi national promoting the Kingdom through his travel videos, and visiting the AlUla concert for the second time Thursday, told Al Arabiya English that he is not “expecting anything this time because every time I go there, it [AlUla] surprises me with a new thing.”
“I was planning to go to Tomorrowland in Belgium, but I don’t need that anymore. It’s happening in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
In addition to his role as a TV presenter, Sal is also an aspiring producer who corelates his newfound passion to Saudi Arabia’s “open doors” to art and entertainment.
“I was a traveler around the world and I used to make content for people to see the world. But now I make content in Saudi for people to see Saudi,” he said, adding that he is excited to experience the varied entertainment options available in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia began a liberalization drive after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan. Part of it included opening up the country’s previously strict policies on entertainment, including music and cinema.
Saudi-based pop artist Molham, who has previously performed at a MDLBEAST-organized event, said Azimuth was a “bridge” between local and global music and musicians.
“Saudi is very much changing and so is the sound of music, integrating our local sound with international sound,” he told Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of the festival.
“…We want to introduce Saudi music and Saudi instrumentation and Saudi lyrics on a global stage, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Molham is not performing at the AlUla event, but is in town to experience the party, he said. He also said the landscape “inspires” him.
“Being in an iconic place, it really inspires me and a lot of other artists to create in a way that we hadn’t created before… I am excited to be here, excited to take part in a lot of what the country is building towards,” the Jeddah-based artist said.
“I’m very proud of my country. I’m very proud of a lot of the progress that we’ve shown in the last couple of years, and I’m excited to take part in that and be a leader within this movement and very much believe in the vision and what we’re building towards,” he added.
“I’m very excited for the future.”
Festival goers can hear from dozens of artists from techno to house and R&B to Soul.
Day 1, September 21: UK indie band The Kooks, South Korean DJ Peggy Gou, Australian singer and record producer RY X, Egyptian rock band Cairokee, electronic music duo Thievery Corporation, Saudi-born DJ Nooriyah, Saudi DJ and producer BluePaper, Arabs Got Talent star Daneel, female singer-songwriter Cosmicat, Saudi DJ JEME, and regional stars Dorar, Nomad, Amro, and Sokkary.
Day 2, September 22: English singer and songwriter Jorja Smith, indie artist Dope Lemon, Australian singer Chet Faker, northern Mali’s Tinariwen, Gaza-raised Saint Levant, Shkoon Live, Ame & Dixon, and regional legends Vinyl Mode, Husa & Zeyada, Dish Dash, Majid, Kayan, Zone+, Baloo, Anmarz, and Narkbeat.
Both weekend and single day passes are available through the official AlUla website starting from $215 (SAR 808).
The organizers have also set up a festival playlist, now streaming on Spotify.
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